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How long can Abbott last?

February 25th, 2015

Judging by the tone of media coverage, Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership has now entered its terminal phase. Everything he does and says is being judged on that basis, with every slipup a potential disaster.

But having just beaten a spill motion, and with at least moderately good news from the polls, he can scarcely be removed immediately. On the other hand, as long as he stays in office, the government is effectively in lame duck mode, with its every decision open to reversal by his successor. To take the most recent example, if Abbott were replaced by Turnbull, the attacks on Gillian Triggs would cease instantly.

The big timing issue relates to the Budget, due in May. It’s obvious that, if Abbott goes, so does Hockey, which would be highly problematic if the removal took place after the budget was delivered but before it got through Parliament. Yet some reports I’ve read suggest that a lot of senior Liberals want to give Abbott & Hockey a chance to make a success of this Budget, then dump them if it fails.

On a side issue, the fact that the Prime Ministership is decided only by the Liberal Party members of the coalition is quite a big deal. Abbott would obviously do better if the two parties merged, or even if the Queensland LNP were part of the federal Liberal party rather than the bizarre camel it is now.

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  1. John
    February 25th, 2015 at 16:55 | #1

    Yes, the litany of silly statements and captains calls etc has been a large factor in Tony’s forthcoming downfall

  2. February 25th, 2015 at 17:16 | #2

    John Quiggin, thanks. I agree to a degree. But I draw peoples’ attention to the daily decisions of this government that make it urgent for Abbott to go and his term is already too fragile anyway:

    It should be weighing heavily on the shoulders of our compliant major party MPs and Senators who have allowed this inevitable mission creep on the new War on Iraq without consulting in public in our Parliament or engaging with the community at large. We will have no choice but to resort to electronic graffiti. We will be forced to lift our voices in any forum we can find and will take no responsibility for the intemperate language which will accompany this.

    When we consider what we now know about the Abbott government, it is unconscionable for citizens to let this go through unchallenged. The LNP government is founded upon an emotionally unhealthy and juvenile reliance on ‘strong’ leadership based on delusional narcissism. One man and his vacuous three word slogans hijacked our democracy and are wrecking all of its institutions. Not only can we not rely upon the decision-making of this government for simple domestic issues; we cannot rely on decisions of life and death, of making us safe versus putting the nation in danger.

    This cannot stand without challenge. Is it not time for that Double Dissolution before further damage?

  3. Doug
    February 25th, 2015 at 17:29 | #3

    We found out that Australia might be sending more troops to Iraq in an announcement from the New Zealand Prime Minister. Another example of Good Government.On the question of Iraq Nicholas Stuart in the Canberra times keeps reporting that the Australian Government does not have a Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi Government – that Australian troops in Iraq have diplomatic passports and that the Air Force is flying missions from somewhere in the Gulf not Iraq.
    This is serious but no reporters have raised questions about this. I am assuming Stuart is correct in that no one form the Government has written denying his story and that on Defence issues he seems generally well informed.

  4. alfred venison
    February 25th, 2015 at 17:42 | #4

    abbott will last as long as peta credlin & brian loughnane last, no more, no less.

    abbott – who i will say it bluntly is without doubt too stupid to operate in any way independently – exists where he does exclusively in order for peta & brian to run the gov’t through him on behalf of the coterie around alex hawke (*) and the hard christian right who are too toxic to only exercise power openly in their own right.

    peta, abbot & brian are the “pointmen” for the hard christian right in this iteration. abbott is simply the candidate the hard christian right set up in order to deny the job to turnbull and control gov’t by proxy through their puppet. i predict they will fall together – it will be a purge.

    (*)”Nobody joins the Liberal Party to be left-wing. If you stand for compulsory student unionism, drug-injecting rooms and lowering the [homosexual] age of consent, you can choose the Green, Labor or the Democrats [http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2005/05/17/1116095964742.html ]. -a.v.

  5. Ikonoclast
    February 25th, 2015 at 17:44 | #5

    Dunno. I’ll ask me mates I.D. GAF and B.T. FOOM. 😉

  6. Ken_L
    February 25th, 2015 at 17:44 | #6

    Both Turnbull and Bishop have ostentatiously distanced themselves from Abbott in recent days, openly if indirectly questioning his judgement in two separate matters. Plus of course the flood of damaging leaks make it clear some people are determined he has to go. No prime minister worth his salt would tolerate that kind of disloyalty if he was sure of his position, but Abbott has no option but to sit and take it. It’s almost as if the challengers believe if only they can goad him enough, he’ll do something so monumentally stupid that the Party will unanimously tell him to go.

  7. Collin Street
    February 25th, 2015 at 18:05 | #7

    Plus of course the flood of damaging leaks make it clear some people are determined he has to go.

    Look: current evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that the liberal party federal director has been stealing vast sums of money from the liberal party. Occasionally you run into fiscal control that’s accidentally that bad, so really we can’t say anything with certainty beyond “the hypothesis hasn’t been ruled out”… but, y’know, people of reasonable competence — people competent enough to be given control of a government department — don’t let things get that bad.

    We can take it as a given that Brian Loughnane is innocent of any wrongdoing and it’s still a complete condemnation of the elected officials of the liberal party, because they really should have stopped things well before they got to this situation. They don’t let people in intimate relationships have oversight over each other, they don’t sign off on books that have had irregularities until they’ve verified to themselves that everything-but-everything can be justified, and they don’t let people who innocently caused irregularities one year cause irregularities the next, innocently or not.

    If they can’t run the liberal party properly — and that’s pretty much indisputably proven at this point — then a fortiori they can’t run the bloody country. And this as true of the rank-and-file, the branch membership and the parliamentary party, as much as the liberal party party-side hierarchy, because they shouldn’t have elected people who couldn’t do their job. And I think that that’s something that’s pretty important in considering the future of Tony Abbott and the liberal leadership.

  8. Donald Oats
    February 25th, 2015 at 18:11 | #8

    The B-Team have at least two options, as far as I can see. It all depends on how long a lead up they think they need to win over the electorate once they are installed. So:

    Option 1: PM Tony Abbott will be allowed to last just long enough for Turnbull and Bishop to have constructed their Plan-B Budget, and then he’ll be toast. The Plan-B budget will be aimed at fairness and equity, while reducing middle-class welfare where possible to do so, and boosting some marginal tax rates to increase overall revenue. Might even see a slight adjustment to the GST as a sop for Abbott supporters.

    Option 2: Actually, I reckon the B-Team in the LNP are hoping Abbott/Hockey can last just up to the next election campaign, to be knocked off cleanly and efficiently. The B-Team then own the idea-scape for shaping the campaign to suit their vision, the A/H vision being relegated to landfill. The way things are going though, Abbott could accidentally bring himself down any time soon, bringing on option 1.

    Option 3: Put up with the PM, soldier on, and get their arses handed back to them in a sling, come the next election. This is my preferred option 🙂

  9. bjb
    February 25th, 2015 at 18:14 | #9

    @Collin Street

    For the “party of business” they seem to be pretty poor at running their own affairs, not to mention Arthur “I don’t recall” Sinodinos.

  10. Peter Chapman
    February 25th, 2015 at 18:59 | #10

    Tony Abbott now says that someone is clearly leaking “in an attempt to destroy this Government”. Er, sorry, Tony, no, they are out to destroy YOU, which is not the same thing… a distinction you have consistently failed to understand.

  11. February 25th, 2015 at 19:09 | #11

    As a person who still considers John Howard was a good Prime Minister, I am amazed at how ugly (and dumb) Abbott and a large slab of the Right has become. The attack on Triggs is an appalling display of thin skinned personal animosity from a bunch of male politicians and their media mates using bullying tactics (under cloak of parliamentary privilege in the case of Abbott) with layers of condescension to women thrown in for good measure.

    Right wing bloggers like Blair and Bolt have become so routinely dismissive of women (“frightbats”) they don’t know what casual sexism sounds like anymore. But, but , free speech to be a jerk is all the rage in libertarian land at the moment, so use of rudeness and offensive language (formerly mainly found on the immature Left until they grew up a bit) has been elevated to a matter of principle for many on the Right.

    As for dumb, I’ll leave climate change out of it for once, but how could a PM with a law degree make such a detailed commentary on evidence for a terrorism charge and not expect it to potentially jeopardise a trial?

    And how could he be so dismissive of Triggs finding that indefinite detention of a murderer who has served his time is in fact a breach of human rights and worthy of compensation? Even the Australian published a legal defence of Triggs. Abbott’s political use of this finding is a populist disgrace clearly for other political purposes.

    In fact, that’s the key, isn’t it? He just lets (what he thinks is) political advantage to be gained from attack over-rule caution, common sense or good judgement in matters legal or of good governance.

    This period of government has already sealed his fate as a historic failure of a Prime Minister; I have written elsewhere that the only way he might be remembered more kindly would be if he were turfed out Fiji style by some General or other. (I suggest locking him up at the top of the Carillion, as the equivalent of a Tower of London.)

    But the sooner he goes, by whatever means, the better, for the dignity of the country and its institutions.

  12. jungney
    February 25th, 2015 at 19:42 | #12

    @alfred venison
    Thanks for the deep analysis. That accords with my knowledge.

  13. Nathan
    February 25th, 2015 at 19:56 | #13

    @Willy Bach
    Since the only person who can call a double dissolution is Tony Abbott himself, it doesn’t seem like a terribly likely outcome.

  14. P.A.Cox
    February 25th, 2015 at 20:13 | #14

    The sooner the Abbott scourge is removed from the political/media landscape the more civil we all may feel. We may be able to breathe some fresh air. We crave to make sense rather than this tired out of date circus act. And then some small green shoots may appear. In the long run we need renewal – not newness.

  15. Jim
    February 25th, 2015 at 20:20 | #15

    I think the problem for the Libs is that their problems aren’t just Tony Abbott. Mr Abbott is a dead man walking (politically speaking), but he is taking the heat for a front bench full of serial under-performers. Ask yourself this. How many of the following do you think have performed well enough to be on the front bench? Abbott, Hockey, Pyne, Brandis, Andrews, Abetz, Cormann, Dutton, Robb. None? Then there is the problem with the Liberal Executive.

    Changing PM is one thing, bit is it enough? The Libs need a massive clean out of senior people if they are to convince the population any change is more than just cosmetic.

  16. nawagadj
    February 25th, 2015 at 20:22 | #16

    How long can Abbott last?

    Till the next election – just do an Adam Giles (CLP-NT); loose the party room vote, but threaten to burn everything to the ground if you don’t get to keep the job.

  17. Ikonoclast
    February 25th, 2015 at 20:59 | #17

    @steve from brisbane

    I can understand where you are coming from even though I loathed Howard and the Howard years. Tactically and strategically, Howard was very good. He was an excellent advocate of his policies and cleverly populist and manipulative when he needed to be. I detested Howard and what he stood for but I could see he was actually very good at politics.

    By comparison Abbott is as you have described him, politically ugly and stupid to the n-th degree. He is a wooden performer and his political instincts (captain’s calls) are always wrong. His very language (“captain’s calls”) illustrates how juvenile he is. I hope he lasts until the next election and continues to do enormous damage to Liberal Party credibilty. It would be his greatest achievement.

  18. m0nty
    February 25th, 2015 at 22:04 | #18

    Howard had a fair few near death experiences, including losing the popular vote at an election. His tactical nous is overrated, and his rat cunning is underrated. He was no statesman, and anyone who pretends that he was has forgotten a litany of stuff ups and banal evils.

    As for Abbott, he’s not fit to lick Howard’s bootlaces. That is not to praise Howard, but to condemn Abbott as the worst prime minister this country has ever had, just as GW Bush was the worst American president ever. That judgement will be cemented for all time if, as I half suspect, Abbott leads the country into its first recession in two and a half decades.

    Allowing Abbott and Hockey to last until the budget serves the short term interests of the Liberal faceless men in the sense that it gives time for the Tory faction of Andrews and Abetz to realise there really is no hope, and to rush to Morrison as the only hope for the right of the party. Until that outcome, which I see as most likely, we will continue to be treated to the freakshow.

  19. Ivor
    February 25th, 2015 at 22:11 | #19

    Nathan :
    @Willy Bach
    Since the only person who can call a double dissolution is Tony Abbott himself, it doesn’t seem like a terribly likely outcome.

    Is that right?

    It is the Governor General that does this. And the G-G can take advice from anywhere.

    The Prime Minister (so-called) can be sidelined.

  20. Ivor
    February 25th, 2015 at 22:12 | #20

    Nathan :
    @Willy Bach
    Since the only person who can call a double dissolution is Tony Abbott himself, it doesn’t seem like a terribly likely outcome.

    Is that right?

    It is the Governor General that does this. And the G-G can take advice from anywhere.

    The Prime Minister (so-called) can be sidelined.

  21. Debbieanne
    February 25th, 2015 at 22:27 | #21

    @Ikonoclast
    But the damage he and his mates are doing to our country is terrible. Medicare, science/research, higher education in particular, but all education really etc, etc.They are governing by division, and although some of the fair go seems to have put damper on some their worst policies, I am afraid of just how much dissension they will be able to sow over the next eighteen plus months. it matters not who sits in the PM’s chair, the ideals of the people within the LNP are truly abhorrent.

  22. alfred venison
    February 25th, 2015 at 22:34 | #22

    thanks, jungney. not sure how deep, but like you (i suspect) i also read the nsw court notices (nudge, nudge) and here’s how i see it today. (1) clearly there are factions within the liberal party – to say otherwise is idiotic or ideological. and (2) clearly abbott has never had the intellectual capacity to be prime minister – he has only ever had the intellectual capacity to become prime minister – the intellectual capacity of a battering ram. i don’t mind being blunt: the man is plainly too stupid to be prime minister on his own. and in my opinion (3) the necessary consequent corollary of this is that he is presently in the job precisely because he is an empty vessel through which his toxic controllers can operate without revealing themselves or their ulterior purpose directly. that abbott shares by instinct many of the prejudices of his controllers does not alter the fact that he is too stupid to operate on his own, and this is why peta is so central: she is (1) a trusted faction insider (read up her biography, & alex hawke & her husband for a start) and she is (2) in a role that plausibly puts her continually by his side so that he need never be left unattended.

    the hard christian right tea party emulators are fighting the nativist conservatives for the heart & soul of the australian liberal party. its been going on for some time, but quietly, for the most part, one would have to read nsw law notices to know how bitter the fight has been for control of that state liberal party. the tea party emulators have worked their people into some key positions within the federal party parliamentary wing & the organisational wing from where they exercise influence over the definition of “core” party ideology & candidate preselection & policy policy & parliamentary tactics.

    but i think we may be witnessing the unravelling of their attempt to employ the abbott battering ram to take gov’t and drive far ranging ideologically motivated changes in australian society by shock & awe before anyone noticed – to use the australian liberal party in gov’t to effect a “gleichshaltung” of australian society & political culture with what are widely recognised as some of the worst aspects of american society & american politician culture. -a.v.

  23. Donald Oats
    February 25th, 2015 at 23:20 | #23

    A good politician should be capable of arguing the merits or demerits of a policy, as if they were each of the different opposition party members, say LNP, ALP, Greens, and sundry indeps (oh, and Pup, if anyone can figure out what they stand for). A good politician can apply a mix of rhetoric and reason to get their points across, robustly and comprehensibly; a good politician can do all this without resorting to attacks upon the professionalism of their opponents, without snide and derisive remarks of no substance, and most definitely without attacking the moral character of an opponent. If the first line of defence is mutually assured destruction, it’s true you didn’t lose, but you didn’t win much either. Our current government consists of drones programmed to shoot at anything that moves, without consideration for the collateral damage.

    In the Senate Estimates Committee on Tuesday, Ian MacDonald, after dropping the H-bomb, admitted he hadn’t even read the report on detention of children, because he knew it was biased! As stated in the article:

    During a rowdy committee session, chairman LNP senator Ian MacDonald condemned the HRC report on young asylum seekers in detention — but then admitted he hadn’t read it.
    “I haven’t bothered to read the final report because I think it is partisan,” Senator MacDonald told the hearing.

    With logic that inane, why are we paying his salary?

    With respect to PM Tony Abbott’s robust defence of his AG, George Brandis (all under parliamentary privilege), he really sank the boot in. It ties his fortunes with that of Brandis. Furthermore, the PM has engaged in an absolutely shameless stacking of boards with compliant LNP believers and/or ex-members. How can a good public service function when lackeys and lickspittles are appointed and good independent public servants tossed to make way? Are you going to get good advice from them, or are they just there to enjoy a pre-retirement retirement at taxpayer’s expense?

    I find it immensely difficult to convey the depth of my despair at the behaviour of the current government. Can the GG rise up and do the necessary thing?

  24. Ikonoclast
    February 25th, 2015 at 23:31 | #24

    @alfred venison

    You are starting to out-paranoia me and that takes some doing! But in these matters, paranoia is true perception.

  25. Megan
    February 25th, 2015 at 23:38 | #25

    @alfred venison

    I think you’ve nailed at #4, and Collin at #7 too, and further at #21 above.

    My great fear for my country is that all of those things you describe have a mirror in the ALP (and the Greens, too) – to the same effect.

    While tribalists were playing silly diversionary games we have lost our democracy. Any purge will have to run through the entire ALP/LNP/Greens ‘machines’ if we are to get it back.

  26. Nathan
    February 26th, 2015 at 00:35 | #26

    @Ivor
    The G-G can dismiss a prime minister on his own (as per Whitlam) but that isn’t a double dissolution. A double dissolution is when, if the conditions are satisfied (called a trigger), the government of the day can request the Governor-General to dissolve both houses of parliament and call a full election. But this can only take place at the governments request.

    What happened in 1975 is the Kerr dismissed Whitlam, and Fraser as caretaker PM requested a DD. But calling a DD itself is something that the PM, and only the PM can do. The G-G cannot do this themselves. So, as it stands, Abbott is the only person who can request a double dissolution.

  27. James Wimberley
    February 26th, 2015 at 03:56 | #27

    The Iraq venture could come badly unstuck. Remember that ISIS debates whether the correct punishment for kafir “enemies of Islam” is beheading or crucifixion.

  28. Collin Street
    February 26th, 2015 at 06:43 | #28

    @Jim:

    The Libs need a massive clean out of senior people if they are to convince the population any change is more than just cosmetic.

    The junior people are even worse: the liberal party draws heavilly from the Young Liberals, and the young liberals are pretty much without exception narcissistic, bitter, and pretty thick.

  29. Fran Barlow
    February 26th, 2015 at 06:55 | #29

    Steve from Brisbane

    While I’ve noted myself that Abbott makes Howard look good you overlook the fact that Howard’s preparatory work laid the foundations for Abbott’s rule. The party that chose Abbott as its standard bearer was shaped for 11 years by Howard.

    Howard was amongst the overarching causes of Abbott — perhaps the single-most salient of the quasi-proximal causes, in that he promoted and mentored him throughout his transition to what he is today and debauched the party so that resistance to him was decisively weakened.

    There are other predisposing factors of course — some quite distal and others more proximal — but the dark and baleful shadow of Howard looms large over current political discourse.

  30. Uncle Milton
    February 26th, 2015 at 09:01 | #30

    It’s significant that Abbott is playing to the ‘base’ (an American concept with little applicability in Australia, because we have compulsory votingattendance at polling stations) by attacking Triggs.

    The base is all he has left. It’s true that attacking the HRC and especially Triggs appeals to the reptilian part of the base’s collective brain, but that’s a tenuous basis for trying to hang on the keys to the Lodge. Plus the base no longer trusts Abbott because he pragmatically backed away from his amendment to the RDA.

    Also, Joe Hockey has been very quiet lately. I wonder if he is in back-channel talks with Turnbull.

  31. Uncle Milton
    February 26th, 2015 at 09:09 | #31

    @Nathan

    Is there even a trigger for a DD (a bill rejected twice by the Senate three month’s apart)?

    What can’t be ruled out is that Turnbull rolls Abbott, the coalition surges in popularity and Turnbull asks Sir Peter for a DD (if there is a trigger) because (he says) he wants a mandate from the people.

    Plausibly, the coalition wins the election, and wins control of the Senate, Turnbull emerges as a hero of the Liberal Party, and he then has open season to implement whatever he feels like doing.

  32. February 26th, 2015 at 09:23 | #32

    @Fran Barlow
    Fran, Abbott did only get the leadership by the skin of his teeth, though, so I am not sure that you can say that the party room was overwhelmingly convinced by the preparatory work of Howard for an Abbott leadership.

    By the way, Howard was not a perfect Prime Minister, but I think that overall he did display modesty and common sense and was not, by comparison with 1/2 of today’s party room, overly ideological. (I’m sure you and many readers will disagree on that, but I still think there is a case to be made, even if he overplayed his hand with Workchoices and did not know when to leave.)

    Perhaps the main thing is that he seemed to have a sense of knowing who to listen to.
    My take is that half of the Liberals, by their connections with Republican “think tanks” and tacticians, have been infected by American Right wing nonsense, which is ideologically set against evidence in science and economics. That influence I suspect was not as strong during the first part of the Howard reign. It is an influence that has to be removed from the Liberals before they are cohesive and reasonable party again.

  33. Uncle Milton
    February 26th, 2015 at 09:34 | #33

    @steve from brisbane

    Howard was not … overly ideological.

    Apart from Workchoices, Iraq, children overboard, tax cuts for high income earners, and stacking the ABC Board with Albrechtson et al and privatising Telstra, I think this is right.

  34. Ikonoclast
    February 26th, 2015 at 09:55 | #34

    @steve from brisbane

    The Liberals and indeed Labor under Hawke and Keating all bought into monetarism and economic neoliberalism or “economic rationalism” as it was called in Australia in the late 1980s and 1990s.

    Australia’s root problems now come from economic neoliberalism and political neoconservatism; a huge lurch to the right which moved the whole Overton window. What people now think is centrism is actually far right politics (though not yet far right extremism and authoritarianism in Australia). The USA with the patriot act, the secret surveillance state and so on has passed into far right authoritarianism.

    It’s a very difficult and dangerous time with the world dividing into major blocs and all blocs are headed by authoritarian governments (USA, China and Russia). These are all trending towards being secret states coupled with corporate capitalist power. Of all the dystopian predictions, Orwell’s 1984 is looking the most prescient overall despite his central mistake about the secret state coalescing around socialism rather than corporatism.

    Australia needs to navigate these dangers. The best way for the time being is “bourgeois leftism” of the Green variety. That is to say genuine centrism that only looks left because the Overton window is so far right. We could not go further left than that or the USA would subject us to regime change.

    In the long run US power will wane, the climate will change rapidly and deleteriously and the limits to growth will impose themselves harshly on the world economy. These trends will change and destablise everything. Accurate prediction is impossible beyond stating that real problems (not just financial superstructure problems) will be a lot worse. Conflict, resource wars and chaotic de-growth will be the main global picture.

    Another future was possible but that future is almost gone. We have left change too late, we have proceeded on the wrong path too long.

  35. Chris
    February 26th, 2015 at 09:59 | #35

    @Uncle Milton
    It doesn’t have to be a DD though. A normal election would do the same thing, which he could easily call. I’m not even sure if there is an existing trigger for a DD.

    Due to the smaller quotas, a post DD senate would probably be even messier than the current one.

  36. Uncle Milton
    February 26th, 2015 at 10:04 | #36

    @Chris

    A normal election would not solve Turnbull’s Senate problem. It might even make it worse, because it would throw the House and Senate terms completely out of alignment.

  37. Ikonoclast
    February 26th, 2015 at 10:05 | #37

    Occasionally I read something I wish I had written myself. Here is such a short essay. It goes to the crux of our problems now.

    Author Eli Maybell
    “Limitations of Leftism”

    “Despite numerous insights into commodities and the market economy, the left historically has always embraced the industrial, energy-intensive system originally generated by private capitalism as a “progressive force” that would lay the basis for a free and abundant society. According to this schema, humanity has always lacked the technological basis for freedom that industrial capitalism, for all its negative aspects, would create. Once that basis was laid, a revolution would usher in communism (or a “post-scarcity” society) using many of the wonders of technology that were capitalism’s “progressive” legacy. Presently, capitalism has allegedly outlived its progressive role and now functions as a brake on genuine development. Hence it is the role of the left to rationalize, modernize, and ultimately humanize the industrial environment through socialization, collectivization and participatory management of mass technics. In fact, in societies where the bourgeois class was incapable of creating the basic structures of capitalism — urban-industrial-energy development, mass production of consumer goods, mass communications, state centralization, etc. — the left, through national revolution and state-managed economies, fulfilled the historic mission of the bourgeoisie.

    In the leftist model (shared by Leninist and social democrat Marxists, as well as by anarcho-syndicalists and social ecologists), the real progressive promise of industrialization and mechanization is being thwarted by private capitalism and state socialism. But under the collective management of the workers, the industrial apparatus and the entire society can be administered safely and democratically. According to this view, present dangers and disasters do not flow from contradictions inherent in mass technics (a view considered to reflect the mistake of “technological determinism”), but rather from capitalist greed or bourgeois mismanagement — not from the “forces of production” (to use the Marxist terminology) but from the separate “relations of production”.

    The left, blinded by a focus on what are seen as purely economic relations, challenges only the forms and not the material, cultural and subjective content of modern industrialism. It fails to examine the view — one it shares with bourgeois liberalism — that human freedom is based necessarily on a material plentitude of goods and services. Parroting their profit, Marxists argue that the “appropriation” by the workers of the “instruments of production” represents “the development of a totality of capacities in the individuals themselves”. Conquest of the “realm of necessity” (read: conquest of nature) will usher in the “realm of freedom”. In this view, the material development of industrial society (“the productive forces”) will make possible the abolition of the division of labor; “the domination of circumstances and chance over individuals” will be replaced by the “domination of individuals over chance and necessity”. (Marx and Engels, “The German Ideology”) Mastery of nature by means of workers’ councils and scientific management will put an end to oil spills. Thus, if mass technics confront the workers as an alien power, it is because the apparatus is controlled by the capitalist ruling class, not because such technics are themselves uncontrollable.

    This ideology, accompanied usually by fantasies of global computer networks and the complete automation of all onerous tasks (machines making machines making machines to strip mine the coal and drill the oil and manufacture the plastics, etc.), cannot understand either the necessity for strict and vast compartmentalization of tasks and expertise, or the resulting social capacity and stratification and the impossibility of making coherent decisions in such a context. Unforeseen consequences, be they local or global, social or ecological, are discounted along with inevitable errors, miscalculations, and disasters. Technological decisions implying massive intervention into nature are treated as mere logic problems or technological puzzles which workers can solve through their computer networks.

    Such a view, rooted in the 19th century technological and scientific optimism that the workers’ movement shared with the bourgeois, does not recognize the matrix of forces that has now come to characterize modern civilization — the convergence of commodity relations, urbanization and mass technics, along with the rise of interlocking, rival nuclear-cybernetic states into a global mega-machine. Technology is not an isolated project, or even an accumulation of technical knowledge, that is determined by a somehow separate and more fundamental sphere of “social relations”. Mass technics have become, in the words of Langdon Winner, “structures whose conditions of operation demand the restructuring of their environments” (Autonomous Technology, 1977) , and thus of the very social relations that brought them about.

    Mass technics — a product of earlier forms and archaic hierarchies — have now outgrown the conditions that endangered them, taking on an autonomous life (though overlapping with and never completely nullifying these earlier forms). They furnish, or have become, a kind of total environment and social system, both in their general and individual, subjective aspects. For the most part, the left never grasped Marx’s acute insight that as human beings express there lives, so they themselves are. When the “means of production” are in actuality interlocking elements of a dangerously complex, interdependent global system, made up not only of technological apparatus and human operatives as working parts in that apparatus, but of forms of culture and communication and even the landscape itself, it makes no sense to speak of “relations of production” as a separate sphere.

    In such a mechanized pyramid, in which instrumental relations and social relations are one and the same, accidents are endemic. No risk analysis can predict or avoid them all, or their consequences, which will become increasingly great and far-reaching. Workers councils will be no more able to avert accidents than the regulatory reforms proposed by liberal environmentalists and the social-democratic left, unless their central task is to begin immediately to dismantle the machine altogether.

    The left also fails to recognize what is in a sense a deeper problem for those desiring revolutionary change, that of the cultural context and content of mass society — the addiction to capitalist-defined “comforts” and a vision of material plenitude that are so destructive ecologically. The result is an incapability to confront not just the ruling class, but the grid itself — on the land, in society, in the character of each person — of mass technics, mass mobility, mass pseudo-communications, mass energy-use, mass consumption of mass-produced goods.

    As Jacques Ellul writes in “The Technological Society” (1980), “it is the technological coherence that now makes up the social coherence… Technology is in itself not only a means, but a universe of means — in the original sense of Universum: both exclusive and total”. This universe degrades and colonizes the social and natural world, making their dwindling vestiges ever more perilously dependent on the technological that has supplanted them. The ecological implications are evident. As Ellul argues, “Technology can become an environment only if the old environment stops being one. But that implies destructuring it to such an extreme that nothing is left of it”. We are obviously reaching that point, as capital begins to pose its ultimate technology, bioengineering and the illusion of total biological control, as the only solution to the ecological crisis it has created. Thus, the important insights that come from a class analysis are incomplete. It won’t be enough to get rid of the rulers who have turned the earth into a company town; a way of life must end and an entirely new, post-industrial culture must also emerge.”

  38. Nathan
    February 26th, 2015 at 10:23 | #38

    @Uncle Milton
    There are currently two live triggers, which are the unsuccessful attempts to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation [1]. There’s also a whole bunch potential triggers that don’t meet the requirements yet but may later.

    [1] Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013 & Clean Energy (Income Tax Rates and Other Amendments) Bill 2013

  39. John
    February 26th, 2015 at 10:26 | #39

    Pity that Peter Costelloe is not still on the front bench
    then we would have “Abbott and Costelloe”
    🙂

  40. Uncle Milton
    February 26th, 2015 at 10:37 | #40

    @Nathan

    It could be awkward for PM Turnbull to call a DD on the basis that the Senate is blocking a bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

  41. paul walter
    February 26th, 2015 at 10:49 | #41

    People misunderstand the purpose of the Abbott “government” It is not there to “govern” in the sense that most people would understand that term, but to wreck.

    All that counts is that max damage is done before they are woken up to and thrown out.

  42. February 26th, 2015 at 12:57 | #42

    @Uncle Milton
    Well, on the other hand, he went against his rural constituency on gun control, and is considered a villain for it to this day in the US and the nuttier branches of the Australian blogosphere.

    My impression is that he was persuadable on climate change, even if since leaving government he has thrown his hat in with the lukewarmer do-nothings. (His view that looking into nuclear power was warranted partly as a response to climate change was not unreasonable, even if I don’t find a nuclear Australia persuasive now.)

    I don’t really class Iraq or “children overboard” as ideologically motivated mistakes as such, but let’s not go there.

    As for tax cuts to high income earners – well, the increase in middle class welfare that went with it is not exactly from the purist economic rationalist playbook, is it?

  43. John Goss
    February 26th, 2015 at 13:24 | #43

    The timing issue is puzzling me somewhat. Given the first spill motion failed, the next obvious time to change leaders is after the Budget. There is a problem that the new leader is then stuck with trying to pass an Abbott/Hockey budget. However there won’t be too many extra nasties in the May budget, so any refreshing of the budget strategy that needs to be done can be done in the MYEFO, and a few budget nasties can be dropped as soon as the new leader ascends as a sort of present for voting for change.
    In order to ensure a change after the budget, it seems to me that Turnbull and Bishop just need to give Abbott enough rope to hang himself, but, and this is where I am puzzled, the pace of leaks seems to indicate they want a change as soon as possible. And I don’t see any merit in a change before the budget, as it means the new leadership is stuck with a budget which they will have had very little influence over. Maybe they figure that Abbott and his mates will resist so much, that they consider they need to go full bore with the undermining for the next 2 months.

    Or maybe they are trying to avoid the mistake of the Rudd Gillard change where the hatred of the Labor Party for Rudd was mostly kept internal, and so the people were genuinely surprised and felt betrayed by the deposing of Rudd. Its far better to knife a Prime Minister that people loathe than one who is popular, and the deeper the loathing of the individual the better, as then the bad decisions can be blamed on a loathed individual, rather than people realising they were LNP decisions.

  44. Collin Street
    February 26th, 2015 at 13:33 | #44

    Well, the obvious time to roll abbott is around the end of april when he’s out of the country on a long-planned foreign appearance.

    But he may not last that long.

  45. rog
    February 26th, 2015 at 13:35 | #45

    On qt Hockey has trumpeted the economic success of the govt and uses MacMillan Shakespeare as an example (MMS is a company that profits from tax avoidance).

    Hockey has also used ABS stats showing that av wage in Aust has risen as an indicator of the govts prowess. However it has been observed that this drise has been the lowest annual rate in 17 years. It also does not explain the rise in unemployment.

  46. February 26th, 2015 at 13:35 | #46

    Uncle, come on, please. You say, “I don’t really class Iraq or “children overboard” as ideologically motivated mistakes as such, but let’s not go there.” I would classify these actions by Howard (and many others) as ruthless, unprincipled political opportunism. We are still paying for this war crime with at least another decade of violence. Yet, Howard lost no sleep worrying about the people of Iraq, the 4 million who fled as refugees, the possibly 1.3 million who were killed.

    His actions most certainly caused harm to people whose lives Howard and all his Ministers, including Abbott, attached little or no value – hardly qualifies for the dismissal you gave this, “…but let’s not go there”. The incident called “children overboard” was one of Howard’s most unconscionable bastard acts and he will be remembered by historians for this. We will never forget.

  47. Julie Thomas
    February 26th, 2015 at 14:06 | #47

    @steve from brisbane

    “I don’t really class Iraq or “children overboard” as ideologically motivated mistakes as such, but let’s not go there.”

    I note your request “let’s not go there” but I do not understand why you would not want to go there.

    If not Ideology, then what?

    What was it about him you think that led an apparently intelligent – certainly more able than Tony Abbott who once said he was the love child of John Howard and Bronwyn Bishop – and presumably an honourable man to make such egregious errors?

    These are things that do need to be talked about.

    Willy I think Uncle was replying to Steve from Brisbane who made this claim that I also noted.

  48. Ivor
    February 26th, 2015 at 14:24 | #48

    Nathan :
    But calling a DD itself is something that the PM, and only the PM can do. The G-G cannot do this themselves. So, as it stands, Abbott is the only person who can request a double dissolution.

    What is the basis of this restriction? Any evidence?

    The Prime Minister has this role only out of convention – nothing more.

    If a sufficient other reason existed, what would stop a Governor General calling a double dissolution if all the requirements are met.

    Where is the Prime minister’s request or approval established as a condition?

  49. February 26th, 2015 at 14:42 | #49

    Look, I don’t think its a thread that is worth an excursion into neocon theory and Iraq war justifications, but can I offer the simple observation that a Labor British government went into the war too?

  50. David Irving (no relation)
    February 26th, 2015 at 15:18 | #50

    @John
    Yeah, I’ve never forgiven Costello for killing that dream.

  51. alfred venison
    February 26th, 2015 at 15:20 | #51

    for the record steve from brisbane said john howard ” was not, by comparison with 1/2 of today’s party room, overly ideological “. imo, the liberals did not go to war in iraq because the liberal party is the party of war any more than labour or labor did not go to war is because it is the party of peace. i think a non-ideological case can be made it was in the national interest. i believe that to be an incorrect view and argue against it not because i think liberals are the party of war but because i think going to war against iraq was not in the national interest according to arguments liberals advanced at the time. -a.v.

  52. Fran Barlow
    February 26th, 2015 at 15:26 | #52

    @steve from brisbane

    That the Blair ld Labour Party went into that war too would be more evidence of ‘ideology’ in the more vulgar sense rather than evidence against it.

    I really don’t care much for the currently frivolous deployment of the term ‘ideology’ and unless everyone knows what is intended and there’s a meeting of the minds on the matter, I’d sooner avoid it. There’s no doubt that ‘children overboard’ was a manifestation of existing political convention — adducing longstanding xenophobia and ‘wag the dog’ populism to wedge the opposition and make them look weak. You could call that ‘ideology’ if you wanted and be on good ground.

    Personally, I have no problem with a government being ‘ideological’ if by that one means to say that the government is seeking to situate policies with a coherent, evidence-based, socially inclusive and equitable paradigm. If one means ‘dogmatic and hostile to equity and empowerment’ then plainly I’d oppose ‘ideology’.

    The overarching ‘ideology’ of this country is the defence of unwarranted privilege. Both major parties support it but appeal to somewhat different tranches of the populace in seeking to implement it. That makes them equally ‘ideological’ albeit that they are politically distinct.

  53. Julie Thomas
    February 26th, 2015 at 16:46 | #53

    Is there an agreed upon definition for this term ideology? Of course as JD explained so clearly recently, carefully defining things doesn’t solve the problem but it makes the problem more obvious.

    I remember one sentence from John Ralston Sauls’ book, “Voltare’s Bastards” that I read years ago that went something like, neither capitalism or socialism are ‘real’ ideologies – they are methods of dividing ownership and income. He didn’t define or describe his idea of a real ideology as far as I remember.

    As Fran says there are different ideologies and those decisions that Howard and Blair made in common are not based on their capitalist or socialist ideology but a deeper ideology that is able to accommodate both of these methods of assigning property. This ideology would need to be vague and difficult to examine so that it could accommodate ideological dissonance and it remains so because no-one wants to go there.

  54. February 26th, 2015 at 16:58 | #54

    Whatever “ideology” means, I think I am pretty strong grounds for arguing that the American Right has gone off the deep end because (as Krugman argues all the time) they are simply impervious to evidence they are wrong, such as years of failed economic predictions, or convincing scientific consensus on climate change (or even evolution!) Call it a weird American belief system if you want, but whatever it is, John Howard was not much at all like a modern Tea Party-ish Republican, in my opinion.

    But the Abbott government has large elements within it that are influenced by the way the American Right has gone, and that is a worry.

  55. February 26th, 2015 at 17:03 | #55

    I saw something on tv showing who Credlin had worked for, and all bar one were potential or actual leaders of the Liberal Party.

    If Turnbull takes the leadership again, he will presumably not have Credlin looking over his shoulder. Interesting…

  56. February 26th, 2015 at 18:17 | #56

    Well, the story’s about that some backbenchers believe Turnbull already has the numbers; just the process of how to get a spill going is unclear.

    I have been able to watch most of Question Time this week – the benches behind Abbott have been unusually quiet and glum looking. It is heartening to know, I suppose, that there are a substantial number of Coalition MPs dismayed at the Triggs attack. How they can continue to work with people who think it a good idea, I don’t know.

  57. J-D
    February 26th, 2015 at 18:32 | #57

    @Uncle Milton

    We do not have compulsory attendance at polling stations in Australia. There is nothing in the Act that says that it is compulsory (or mandatory or obligatory) for voters to attend at polling stations; there is nothing in the Act that says that voters must or that voters shall attend at polling stations; nothing in the Act makes it an offence for voters not to attend at polling stations; there is no provision in the Act equivalent to anything of the kind. Every election there are substantial numbers of voters who do not attend at polling stations with perfect legality.

  58. jungney
    February 26th, 2015 at 18:53 | #58

    @J-D
    Within the last 24 hours was a statement from the head of the aec to the extent that it had discovered around 7,000 instances of voter fraud (multiple voting), enough to swing an election if the frauds acted in the right electorates; he said that he was disappointed by the response of the AFP who said “lck of resources…mumble…money in an offshore account (ahem)…lie back and think of Team Straya etc.

    Can’t now readily find a reference but will persevere.

    Point is, these Tea Party fascists know no bounds. Imagine that? Legions of Happy HAnd Clappers setting out to violate the system. It couldn’t happen here, could it? Oh nooooo…it is in train, mate, they’ve got a plan.

  59. J-D
    February 26th, 2015 at 19:05 | #59

    Ivor :

    Nathan :
    But calling a DD itself is something that the PM, and only the PM can do. The G-G cannot do this themselves. So, as it stands, Abbott is the only person who can request a double dissolution.

    What is the basis of this restriction? Any evidence?
    The Prime Minister has this role only out of convention – nothing more.
    If a sufficient other reason existed, what would stop a Governor General calling a double dissolution if all the requirements are met.
    Where is the Prime minister’s request or approval established as a condition?

    As a matter of theory, your (implied) position is correct; but as a matter of practice, Nathan’s position is correct.

    There is nothing in the Constitution saying that a Governor-General’s proclamation dissolving both Houses of Parliament must be counter-signed by the Prime Minister or (bearing in mind that the Constitution does not use the term ‘Prime Minister’) by any Minister at all. There is also nothing in any law saying anything of the kind. So far as anything in the text of the Constitution or any statute goes, there’s no need for a Minister (Prime or not) to advise the Governor-General before the Governor-General calls a double dissolution.

    But if you go by the text of the Constitution, the Governor-General has the power to refuse assent to any Act passed by both Houses of Parliament (or instead of refusing assent to reserve it for the monarch’s pleasure to be known). Yet no Governor-General has ever done this — not one out of twenty-six Governors-General over 114 years, which have seen I don’t know how many Acts passed. Why not? Has every one of those Acts been something that the Governor-General of the day personally approved of? That would be an enormous coincidence. So what’s stopped them?

    What has stopped them are powerful expectations. It’s not correct to call them unwritten expectations, because in fact they’ve been written about extensively in books and articles describing the workings of the Australian constitutional and political system (and other systems of a similar kind). Still, the expectations existed before the writings documented them (although the writings have assisted in reinforcing them).

    There are some things that people don’t do because it’s so powerfully expected that they won’t do them. Of course, sometimes expectations change and sometimes people act in violation of them. Right now, at this moment, it’s so strongly expected that no Governor-General will call an election without the formal advice of a Prime Minister that no Governor-General will do it. But that might change in the future. The only way we’ll know for certain that it’s changed is when a Governor-General actually does call an election without the formal advice of a Prime Minister. Personally, if somebody tells me tomorrow that circumstances have changed so much that it’s become possible for a Governor-General to call an election without the formal advice of a Prime Minister, I’m going to say ‘What makes you think that? I can’t see it myself.’

  60. J-D
    February 26th, 2015 at 19:09 | #60

    @jungney

    I would be interested to see the actual words of the head of the AEC myself. But I don’t see what that has to do with the question of allegedly compulsory attendance at polling stations. You seem to be raising a different (although possibly indirectly related) topic. I don’t believe that the head of the AEC said that we have compulsory attendance at polling stations in Australia, and even if the head of the AEC did say it, that wouldn’t automatically make it true. It’s false. Anybody can readily verify this by consulting the publicly available text of the Act the same way that I did.

  61. Megan
    February 26th, 2015 at 19:40 | #61

    The Act doesn’t even contain any reference to “polling stations”.

    But, of course, voting is compulsory.

    Section 245, the section which covers compulsory voting, doesn’t even contain the word “compulsory” in its operative provisions!

  62. Donald Oats
    February 26th, 2015 at 19:52 | #62

    With all this hoo-haa over Gillian Triggs and Moriatis’ missing meeting notes, you would think at least a couple of journos would take a step back and think: “Wait a minute, didn’t Scott Morrison effectively blackmail the indeps/PUP to vote for his bill, because if they didn’t he wouldn’t release any more children from detention?”

    If they thought that, they could do a quick online search and go, yep, he did, and he did this *after* the HRC Children in Detention report had been released, while it was languishing on some beautiful new bookshelves somewhere. Or, in Ian MacDonald’s case, being used as a doorstop.

  63. Donald Oats
    February 26th, 2015 at 20:07 | #63

    @Donald Oats
    Ah, Kristina Keneally got there first, and made the connection.

  64. February 26th, 2015 at 21:29 | #64

    Pr Q said:

    How long can Abbott last?

    I’ve already made a prediction on this, back on February 1st, 2015, and I’m standing by it:

    I reckon Abbotts days as a secure L/NP leader are numbered. If the current debacle continues there will be a challenge perhaps one year out from the 2016 election.

    So I expect there will be a decisive spill no later than 06 AUG 2015, which is one year out from the earliest possible calling of a normal election (HoR + 1/2 SEN). I have bet Abbott will lose.

    Pr Q said:

    Judging by the tone of media coverage, Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership has now entered its terminal phase. Everything he does and says is being judged on that basis, with every slipup a potential disaster.

    The phrase “media coverage” is somewhat weasel-worded, given that it appears to apply equally to all parts of the MSM. Some parts of the “media” have totally given up all pretense to unbiased or balanced coverage.

    In particular, the Fairfax press have mounted a shameful, and grotesquely unprofessional, campaign of destabilization against Abbott’s premiership rivaling anything that Murdoch press did to Gillard. Anyone who gives this tawdry spectacle a free pass, and this would be virtually the whole media-academia complex, has lost all credibility as a media commentator.

    I don’t have much sympathy for Abbott’s policy program, which is basically austerity, tax-cuts for billionaires and some mild Muslim-bating. But I have some sympathy for Abbott himself and this is being nurtured by Fairfax’s one-sided diet of scurrilous rumour, confected outrage and beat-up non-stories.

    If the Fairfax media feeding frenzy keeps up I would not be surprised by some sort of public backlash of sympathy for Abbott.  It will be interesting to watch the next few polls  for L/NP rebounds. The Idiot Left could snatch a Turnbull defeat from victory. Worse still, I could lose my bet against Abbott’s premiership prospects .

    More generally, post-modern liberals seem to have ditched the practice of old-fashioned unbiased MSM journalism, going by the practice of the Fairfax Left-wing and Murdoch Right-wing. The politicization of journalism mirrors the politicization of science by Left-wing anthropological academics and Right-wing ecological academics. Both media and science are now heavily tribalized with the fundamental question being no longer “True or False?” but “Who or Whom?”.

  65. Megan
    February 26th, 2015 at 22:01 | #65

    I may as well re-state: I think Abbott will lead the LNP into the next election (either full-term or DD).

    For years now there has been a very reliable rule-of-thumb that if it is written in News Ltd it probably isn’t true. The ABC’s “political” commentariat is now getting into that territory too. Uhlmann is hopeless.

  66. zoot
    February 26th, 2015 at 23:16 | #66

    @J-D

    There is nothing in the Act that says that it is compulsory (or mandatory or obligatory) for voters to attend at polling stations; there is nothing in the Act that says that voters must or that voters shall attend at polling stations; nothing in the Act makes it an offence for voters not to attend at polling stations; there is no provision in the Act equivalent to anything of the kind.

    I’m intrigued. The AEC appears to believe it is able to fine people for not attending a polling place (I have received one of the threatening letters). Is there anything in the act which supports this practice?

  67. February 26th, 2015 at 23:59 | #67

    Jack, what you say might sound good, sort of, but it leaves a bad taste for me, sorry:

    You say, “I don’t have much sympathy for Abbott’s policy program, which is basically austerity, tax-cuts for billionaires and some mild Muslim-bating. But I have some sympathy for Abbott himself …”

    I find it extraordinary that a Prime Minister can inflict harm on a large number of people and somehow there are no consequences. So you can take someone you never met and chuck them off their unemployment benefits for six months, on a whim, and take no responsibility if they commit suicide. You might like to explain exactly what you mean by…”some mild Muslim-bating”. What does that consist of? Perhaps spitting at a thirteen-year-old school girl while tearing off her hijab? She’s terrified and won’t leave the house without her brother. The whole family is angry, but don’t worry, it was only ‘mild’. It was just Tony being Tony, chuckle.

    Make no mistake, Tony Abbott is a dangerously divisive and politically destructive person who inflicts harm every day he clings onto the job and he causes our reputation to suffer too. He will go to pieces if he loses the PM job, but it only matters when its about him. Other people are unimportant to him. He makes that clear, which is why he has to go.

    It should happen in the next couple of days…if we’re lucky. Better make it quick, before Tony commits us to some more military kit we don’t need – and we’ll find he’s bankrupted us for his khaki fantasy.

  68. February 27th, 2015 at 00:03 | #68

    @zoot
    Please don’t go there. If for some reason voting isn’t compulsory, then that is an oversight that should be fixed forthwith.

  69. Megan
    February 27th, 2015 at 00:25 | #69

    @zoot

    For some perverse reason JD loves to play pointless semantic points without actually making an argument.

    I think he enjoys doing it.

    In this case he was pedantically taking “Uncle Milton”, at #30, to task over the point that there is no “compulsory attendance at voting stations” contained in any of our electoral laws.

    Even though our electoral system can correctly be described as being one of “compulsory voting”, there is nothing in the operative provisions of the law that contain the word “compulsory”. Similarly, although the law refers to “polling booths” and other polling places, it also allows for other types of votes that do not require personal attendance at a polling place (such as postal votes).

    Only an immature pedant would take the point without making any further point following from that distinction (in my opinion).

  70. Megan
    February 27th, 2015 at 00:43 | #70

    @zoot

    As far as sending people letters about not voting and penalties, yes there is a quite detailed section about that.

    It is fairly straightforward.

  71. Megan
    February 27th, 2015 at 00:48 | #71

    @zoot

    If I were a spambot for some overseas scam I’d have no trouble getting a comment up with a link.

    But since I’m just a real person, based in Australia, with almost ten years history of commenting here – I get sent to eternal moderation for including a link.

    That’s “freedom and democracy” for you!

    Anyway, if you can work out how to stick the following back together, you will see the section of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 that allows you to be fined for not voting:

    w w w 5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/cea1918233/s245.html

  72. rog
    February 27th, 2015 at 02:03 | #72

    Somehow Abbott and his govt seem content to live with contradictory messages. Abbott says that Triggs has lost the confidence of the govt and Turnbull, of the same govt, says that Triggs is a “very distinguished international legal academic”.

    Certainly the debt n deficit disaster mantra is wearing a bit thin. Financial advisors are now advising their clients that talk of debt is not justified by the evidence

    If Australia was a company its national debt would be labelled a very ‘lazy balance sheet’ and the CEO and Chairman would be thrown out by shareholders for not borrowing enough to invest for future growth!

    …With record low interest rates and global investors clamouring to lend us money, this is the time to borrow at ultra-low rates locked in for long periods and use the money wisely to fund long term projects to maximise Australia’s long term economic growth. But that requires long term vision and that is sadly lacking in our leaders from all sides of politics in Australia.

  73. February 27th, 2015 at 02:20 | #73

    I don’t believe that Tony Abbott can last very long. Asking the president of an independent statutory commission to resign is both exceeding legal authority and denying accountability. Whatever can be made of the semantics, the reasonable conclusion is that on resignation, alternative employment was flagged, if not expressly offered. Professor Triggs correctly asserted she would be party to this scheme.

    This situation may be without precedent, so perhaps an example of innovation on the part of the Attorney-General. The personal attack on Professor Triggs represents bullying, and might be reasonably held to limit her independence. This is going off the beaten track, a situation with unseen hazards, especially if pursued without foresight or care. In and of itself it sufficient to confirm that the person responsible is unfit to hold the office of Prime Minister.

  74. J-D
    February 27th, 2015 at 06:13 | #74

    @zoot

    I can read what the Act says, so I’m confident AEC staff can too. The Act certainly does give the AEC the power to issue penalty notices, but it does not give the AEC the power to issue penalty notices for failure to attend at a polling place/booth/station. Is that what your penalty notice says? I bet it doesn’t.

  75. Fran Barlow
    February 27th, 2015 at 07:17 | #75

    @J-D

    Yes … The act reads in part:

    (2) The Electoral Commissioner must, after polling day at each election, prepare for each Division a list of the names and addresses of the electors who appear to have failed to vote at the election.

    (My emphasis)

    Since voting is secret, the evidence for the appearance of having failed to vote is the failure to have one’s name so marked on one of the polling places set aside for the particular division or has submitted a vote by other means. The argument you are having with zoot in this case turns on whether one narrows the cause to a state of mind of the electoral commissioner, or the antecedent condition — the null value in the voting record, or as zoot might have it the inaction of the enrolled person which predisposed the said null value.

    As interesting as this is from an epistemic POV, I rather doubt it’s germane to this discussion.

  76. Julie Thomas
    February 27th, 2015 at 07:20 | #76

    Jack

    Have you read the resignation letter by Mr Philip Higginson? You can read a transcribed copy here, but I’ll quote a paragraph that might give you some idea of the personal dynamics that are relevant to the leadership rumblings, as Fran Kelly has just called them, that are going on inside the Liberal party that died from dishonesty and corruption some decades ago, possibly with Howard. The smell is becoming obvious to even the most apathetic Australian voter.

    http://pbxmastragics.com/2015/02/24/washing-your-dirty-linen-in-public-while-squeezing-your-donors-dry/

    Poor Mr Higginson wrote: “When as a party overall are we going to grow the necessary knowledge of good governance practice and develop the necessary courage to tackle this serious problem that is deleterious affecting both sides of this party and in particular the relationships on a very, very wide front: Personal, Business, Family, Colleagues of both Wings and Coalition Partners, Media, International Media, Voters, Donors, Supporters, you name it.

    I am overwhelmed daily by the sheer vitriol, and pent up animosities, and enmities that exist, and we are all who are personally affected by it and contributing to it, the longer the conflict of interest exists. I haven’t worked pro bono for over four years in this role and over ten for my good friend to see him brought down this way. We all need to do our bit to encourage him to see what is so plain for all to see.”

    Higginson seems to have an ideology that protects him from realising the lack of character in Tony Abbott’s behaviour – while many others just observing Abbott from a distance could see from that Abbott had no character to speak of – never had any – is so distressed by what is going on in the party he thought he knew and by the disrespect the poor old bugger is getting that he has run away to his family, leaving this letter for his party – some party – to peruse and hopefully consider seriously.

    He asks that it not be made public. That was never going to happen.

  77. rog
    February 27th, 2015 at 07:38 | #77

    Those that still maintain that JWH was a good bloke should remember that by his own definition Abbott is the ideological product of a Howard/Bishop union. Abbott is Howard in a different form.

    Read what Richard Flanagan recently wrote on institutionalised cruelty

    ..great crimes like the Death Railway did not begin with the first beating or murder on that grim line of horror in 1943. They begin decades before with politicians, public figures, and journalists promoting the idea of some people being less than people.

  78. Ivor
    February 27th, 2015 at 07:58 | #78

    @J-D

    You are raising a fuss over nothing.

    If you do not deal with your vote by turning up or by some other manner as provided for, for no good reason, you will incur a penalty.

    This makes it compulsory and a good thing too.

  79. pablo
    February 27th, 2015 at 08:25 | #79

    If it weren’t so serious in a ‘life or death’ sense, I can envisage Joko Widodo saving Abbott’s job. By commuting the sentences on the two Bali inmates, the Indonesian president certainly won’t say anything that could be construed as support for Abbott, but in the context of the ‘last phone call’ and Abbott’s restrained comments afterwards, it could have enormous benefits at least until ‘next slip-up’.

  80. jungney
    February 27th, 2015 at 08:29 | #80

    @J-D
    I don’t think that this alarming information is too far off topic given that it concerns the AEC’s capabilities.

    Not a single person will be prosecuted for multiple voting at the 2013 federal election – even those who admitted to casting more than one ballot paper.

    Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said he was “disturbed” that of the nearly 8000 cases of suspected voting fraud passed to the Australian Federal Police, not a single case has been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

    Of the 7743 suspect cases referred to the AFP, just 65 were investigated and not one will progress to conviction.

    Mr Rogers told a Senate estimates committee that the file passed to the AFP included voters who had actually admitted to voting at more than one polling station and cases where the offence had been denied but there was supporting evidence that they had.

    http://tinyurl.com/o69kctz

    Apparently the AFP would want CCTV footage in polling booths as the minimal type of ‘corroborative evidence’. They would, wouldn’t they?

    This is a shocking failure by both the AEC and the AFP. Who knows how many times some of these people voted? Who are they? Why can we not expose their faces, in court, to public view as rorters of our system?

  81. February 27th, 2015 at 09:02 | #81

    There’s a passage in Treasure Island that sums up the pros and cons.

    Israel Hands spoke. “Here’s what I want to know, Barbecue: how long are we a-going to stand off? I want to go into that cabin, I do. I want their pickles and wines, and that.”
    “Israel,” said Silver, ” here’s what I say: you’ll berth forward, and you’ll live hard, and you’ll speak soft, and you’ll keep sober till I give the word; and you may lay to that, my son.”
    “Well, I don’t say no, do I?” growled the coxswain. “What I say is, when? That’s what I say.”
    “When! By the powers!” cried Silver. “Well now, if you want to know, I’ll tell you when. The last moment I can manage, and that’s when. If I was sure of you all, sons of double Dutchmen, I’d have Cap’n Smollett navigate us half-way back again before I struck. But I know the sort you are. I’ll finish with ’em at the island, and a pity it is. “

    Turnbull gets his best chance at government if the change is about two months off from the next election, but there’s no way to persuade the backbenchers to wait. They want Hockey’s pickles and wines.

  82. Collin Street
    February 27th, 2015 at 11:04 | #82

    > Those that still maintain that JWH was a good bloke

    He’s a s****y human being, undoubtedly. But he’s still better — by any measure — than abbott.

    [the reason it’s once as tragedy and again as farce is because people who think “it worked last time” are, you know, stupid. By definition the second time around the plan isn’t tailored to the circumstance, it’s just cargo-cult repitition done by cargo-cult minds. I think it’s important to realise that a person’s politics is shaped by their personality.]

  83. Tim Macknay
    February 27th, 2015 at 13:51 | #83

    @zoot
    The people discussing compulsory voting above are engaged in a bit of semantic game-playing, presumably for entertainment purposes. 😉
    Section 245 of the Electoral Act makes it the duty of all electors to vote, requires the Electoral Commissioner to make a list of all electors who appear to have failed to vote after each election and then requires divisional returning officers to send penalty notices (i.e. fines) to the electors on the list. The way the Electoral Commissioner determines which electors appear not to have voted is by identifying those who were not registered as having attended polling places or obtained and returned postal ballots. The arrangements concerning the operation of polling places and postal ballot are dealt with elsewhere in the Act. So the way it works is: formally, electors are required to vote, and will be penalised for not doing so, but practically, ‘not voting’ for the purposes of section 245 amounts to not showing up at and being ticked off at a polling place, or not obtaining and returning a postal ballot.

  84. Fran Barlow
    February 27th, 2015 at 14:42 | #84

    @Tim Macknay

    It is of course, silly to have compulsory voting, or more precisely to require electors to furnish evidence that they have satisfied the related compliance mandates.

  85. Ivor
    February 27th, 2015 at 15:11 | #85

    @Tim Macknay

    Yes, yes there is ambiguity between the word “voting” and “turning up”.

    I do not think you would be penalised if you turned up, had your name crossed off, but then walked back out without collecting or touching your ballot papers.

    In effect “turning up” is “voting”.

  86. derrida derider
    February 27th, 2015 at 15:27 | #86

    Looking at it all from Bill Shorten’s POV you’d want Abbott’s axing to be a long drawn out affair. Which means looking at it from the putative new leader’s POV you’d want it to be as immediate as possible. Which means I don’t think the putschistas actually have the numbers, else they’d do it now.

    This stuff they’re putting out about “waiting till after the Budget” or “after the NSW election” is crap. I think Abbott is secure until the election unless he commits another string of bizarre “captain’s calls” – always perfectly possible with that man, of course.

  87. derrida derider
    February 27th, 2015 at 15:35 | #87

    @Fran Barlow
    You’re missing the purpose of “compulsory” voting. It is, simply, to make it a bigger hassle NOT to vote than to vote – which does not need a huge amount of hassling.

    You could probably achieve the same effect by handing out a lotto ticket with the ballot slips.

  88. Fran Barlow
    February 27th, 2015 at 16:14 | #88

    @derrida derider

    Doubtless you could, and indeed you might get multiple voting then!

    I remain of the view that if you are genuinely indifferent about the outcome you really ought not to vote. Indeed, if in your own opinion, you lack the information or the cognitive acumen to make an informed choice, then again, you ought not to vote. You should leave the matter to those who believe they can make a well-informed choice.

    Perhaps the EC could allow registered voters to declare in advance their unwillingness to vote in a particular election allowing them to be removed for that election from the rolls. Alternatively, those who failed to register a vote could be allowed post facto to declare that they failed to vote on grounds of conscience (perhaps with a tick-a-box set of explanatory options) and avoid a fine.

    That said, on those occasions when I have chosen not to vote I have not been fined. I have written letters explaining my disgust at the options (or in the case of the 1978 state election my objection to entering a polling booth in which their were scab ballots) and somewhat to my disappointment no further action was taken.

  89. Tim Macknay
    February 27th, 2015 at 16:17 | #89

    @derrida derider
    I seem to recall that there was an episode of the satirical TV series Absolute Power where the protagonists developed a scheme to get the UK public to adopt a controversial national ID card by making the possession of a card the entry ticket to an extremely rich lottery.
    (mind you, the idea of an ID card seems both somewhat tame and archaic now that the security services can apparently spy on everyone, all the time).

  90. Donald Oats
    February 27th, 2015 at 18:00 | #90

    If Malcolm Turnbull is hoping for the top gig in town, I imagine he will wait as long as possible, or until events force the decision upon him. He would want the largest majority possible, for once in the best seat in the house, he would need to cull some previously influential theo-neo-cons, and to clip the wings of several more. On the other hand, waiting has its own risks, not least being that Julie Bishop runs for the captain’s spot, cruelling the majority for whomsoever gets to wear the shiniest bag of fruit.

    As far as I am concerned, the biggest single issue facing the Abbott government is that it is the guy who goes into the ring with a horseshoe in his glove; they don’t just turn up to win, they go down and dirty to do it, all without even a conscious thought for the collateral damage along the way. The fact that the opponent is playing by the rules wouldn’t bother them in the slightest, on the contrary, they see it as weakness, a barely concealed sneer of contempt being the one acknowledgement of the asymmetry of the situation. And it has been this way since the Fraser government. The GG is meant to be a referee of sorts, but they are MIA.

  91. jungney
    February 27th, 2015 at 18:49 | #91

    What a toxic stew is the Liberal Party. How vile they are. Their sitting members are the vilest of all. There is a sense in which the personnel of a party, the employees and elected representatives, actually do reflect the culture and values of the membership and those electorates at large who vote for them.

    What do we have here? People who either are or approve of policies that are: exclusionary, racist, sexist, homophobic, generally opposed to genuine any personal freedom but their own. They delight in authority, hierarchy, the exercise of power for its own sake.

    They constitute roughly half of the electorate.

    Personally, I want Abbott to bite his own anus, in public, until he bleeds to death. The longer we can keep this particular stinking ideological corpse hanging on the neck of the Coalition, the better.

  92. February 27th, 2015 at 18:53 | #92

    I agree with the commentary around the place that now really is the sensible time to dump Abbott because:

    a. it gives time for the new leader to shape the budget, which is going to be pretty much a do or die effort for this government;

    b. leaving a move until soon after the budget (assuming the budget does not go over well, and given precedent from last year, who really could expect otherwise) makes re-shaping it tricky, and would look like an admission that the entire first two years of the government have been a waste of time;

    c. leaving a move until well after the budget will look very Rudd/Gillard – last minute panicking.

    If the party wants a “re-set” (and it desperately needs one), it would be best to do so now rather than in the run up to an election.

  93. February 27th, 2015 at 18:58 | #93

    Sorry, this thread has become so long that I had forgotten that what I said is pretty much suggested by what JQ wrote in his post!

  94. Megan
    February 27th, 2015 at 19:40 | #94

    @steve from brisbane

    When you say the LNP needs a “re-set”, what do you have in mind – roughly?

  95. Paul Norton
    February 27th, 2015 at 20:30 | #95

    Abbott’s situation reminds me of the following story.

    There was a cricket match in which Dr W G Grace and his batting partner were scoring freely, hitting the ball all over the park. At one point Dr Grace’s partner said to him between balls “I think the bowler might be a chucker*”. To this Dr Grace replied “I’m sure he is, but don’t say anything to the umpire about it. We don’t want him to be taken off.”.

  96. Paul Norton
    February 27th, 2015 at 20:34 | #96

    Those of us who specialise in the study of invertebrate pests and parasites can report that QuadRANT and the habitues of the Ozfail letters page are prepared to die in a ditch for Abbott, while Catallaxy appears split. Expect fireworks on the hard Right if Turnbull gets up.

  97. Megan
    February 27th, 2015 at 20:56 | #97

    @Paul Norton

    Speaking of “invertebrate pests and parasites”, the ALP has just agreed to support the LNP’s plans to extend the surveillance/police state.

    Given that the ALP is as hard right in practice as the LNP there is no reason whatsoever to dump Abbott. Turnbull will never ever get the gig. It simply isn’t going to happen.

  98. February 27th, 2015 at 21:30 | #98

    @Megan

    I’m picturing something like shock therapy, where memories of their recent madness are erased, and they start from scratch.

  99. February 27th, 2015 at 22:41 | #99

    @Paul Norton
    Your comment inspired me to go and look at Quadrant and Catallaxy. Wowsers, some serious problems in the brains there it seems, but looks like there sure will be problems if MT takes over.

    Two OT but intriguing questions:
    Why do right wingers think it makes them sound scintillatingly witty and smart to call left wing people “luvvies” (etc)?

    Sinclair Davidson is a Professor, and he writes stuff like this
    http://catallaxyfiles.com/2015/02/25/is-this-a-typo/. How can those two things be reconciled?

  100. Collin Street
    February 27th, 2015 at 23:07 | #100

    > Personally, I want Abbott to bite his own anus, in public, until he bleeds to death.

    See, I don’t think that Abbott should hog all the opportunity there.

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